I have had the pleasure today of meeting a very average Sri Lankan man of the older type. He is a rattan weaver of 63 years from Ratgama a few miles north of Galle.[ii] Lives about 200 yds from the Galle Rd. For the last 35 years, since the age of 18 he has toured this area at Nugegoda, weaving. His name is CAROLIS SINGHO.
He will weave our hansi putuva (easy chair) and the couch (kavitchiya) for Rs. 24,000/ taking over 5 days. (We bought the old couch in 1993 for Rs 6000/. It is worth 150,000/ today)
He is a calm and collected man whom I have seen going down our lane for years, doing the occasional weaving for us. He wears sarong and shirt. Slippers. Clean shaven, a bit grey haired. Very sturdy build.
I asked some direct questions from him as he weaved. I was lucky I was home.
How is Ratgama? Not bad.
What do you mean? Now things are quite O.K.
So I decided to ask more direct questions.
How is saamaya? Yes, it is there. ( He did not seem to bother to elaborate too much on it. Maybe since that [area] was not affected by the war, unlike Colombo)
How is food? Good. Rice is in plenty and cheap. People are growing their vegetable in their own gardens. The ‘pola’ vegetable people are cursing the loss of business.
How long has that been? About a year or so.
Do they eat bread? Not much in the last year or so. They ate more bread earlier. Now breakfast is about ½ Kilo of rice.
Health (soukya) ? Good. Many hospitals around and many private clinics. Improved over last 10-15 years
Education? 100 % educated. Some are out in the world doing well. Improved over last 10-15 years.
Interference by politicians? None.
Have politicians bought land around? Not at all.
Do they go around like ‘Rate mahattayas? No.
Was there ‘hora’ voting at the last two elections, presidential and parliamentary? No. How could any, with so many police around booths.
How was the first presidential election(with respect to ‘hora’ votes)? The same as the second time.
Any knifings in the area like in olden days? Noo!! He volunteered, ‘there are very few kudukarayas now over the last year or so.’
Are there political forces trying to influence you? (with a laugh) No, they will not try.
Who is supported politically? Mahinda Rajapakse- about 70%
Any racial issues? None. Only Sinhalese live there. The problem could only occur where races mix in other places.
Do children go to temple? Yes Sunday school, most of them.
What is their school wear? Girls- white frock. Boys, blue trousers, white shirts. All wear shoes.
Games? Cricket, football.
Girls? Most of them not doing; many go to tuition classes.
Do they go to school hungry? No not now.
How many meals a day? Three.
Do they eat meats? Plenty of fish. Chicken about twice a week. Do not eat beaf.
Do they eat anything after the meal as dessert? Yes, often, papaw, plantain, occasionally grapes, apples. Curd is around.
Are there kettu (thin) children? No.
Are there fat children? Yes many.
Sleep time? Around 10-10.30pm. electricity is there.
Transport? Most houses have motor cycles or three wheelers. Push cycleis are few. Very few cars. Otherwise public transport.
Pleasure trips? Schools take them about every two weeks.
Adults, do they go even once a year? (With a laugh) about every three months, often for 5-6 days. OftenJaffna, Nagadipa, other pilgrimages.
The priests, do they give trouble? No!!
How is your wife? At home.
Did both of you go to school? Yes.
English? Can understand a bit. Not talk.
House amenities? Gas cooker, dara lipa, fridge. TV, CD player, Hifi music set.
Eldest married son lives at home with family. He does weaving and going out fishing in boats. He has a three wheeler which we use.
Other son was in the army. Now going fishing in deep sea boats.
Four daughters, all married with houses.
He is happy about their progress.
Additional Notes: Weaver is weaving, after a pork curry lunch from me. He is Carolis Singho and is glad to give his name to the net, as, he says, he is telling the truth.
He has received about 4 cell calls from 11am to 3pm, all from wife and son. This is usual for him, when he is out of home area.
Would you/Won’t you wish you could join?
Additonal Question prompted by Michael Roberts: What do you think about Lasith Malinga? He is from our village. Mother is a teacher. He is very good bowler, a credit to the south. I only occasionally watch cricket on the TV.
Dr Weerasekera’s Further Reflection: A sampling from more remote places will be different. His story shows huge development to what I observed in 1984 when I lived inGalle. Hope this effort is suitably detached, which is what I would like to read from others too.
On my travels over the last 9 years to serve artificial limbs to poor people (50 plus times), the story is the same, one of development, including Dambana, the Veddah sanctuary. There are no real Veddahs now!
[i] The title has been imposed by the Web Editor on an email letter which was not intended for publication but n’less proclaimed Dr Werasekera’s satisfaction with the advances the country has made, at least in his own estimate.
[ii] Ratgama has been one of the worst thug places threatening passers-by on and off often in the night. About 1980 my car was force to stop about 9pm. The car was full of people, with me as the only male. I was asked to take a stab injury man who was bleeding to the hospital.I showed anxiety, and one of the women around told the hustlers to let me go. And they did.